… Continued from Croatia Day 5 : Pula, Rovinj
Carrying forward on our Croatian road-trip, from the quaint seaside towns of Pula and Rovinj, we drove towards the center of the Istra Peninsula, up through the hills, into the town of Motovun.
- Motovun is a tiny mountain village with a medieval history in the heart of the Istra Peninsula. It is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is so small that the city wall can be traced in about ten minutes. No kidding. Hotels and restaurants share walls with the ancient fortress and everything seems to be part of a harmonious whole. The town is fabled to be protected by the gentle giant, Veli Jože. Since it is nestled atop a hill, the uninterrupted view of miles of green forests and plains is a treat for the eyes. This is a place where you do nothing, just soak in the atmosphere and be happy!
- Truffles and wine. Motovun’s grapes yield grapes for delicious local wines. Our hotel had a selection that we could buy from. We enjoyed a heavenly rosé on the balcony by the sunset. We surely will remember that for a long time :) The region is also famous for its truffles, the most expensive mushrooms in the world. They are locally called ‘tartufi’. A small area of the surrounding forests are home to white and black truffles that have such a fine aroma that they have to be hunted by specially trained sniffer dogs. Some excursions allow visitors to join such a hunting trip. Most restaurant dishes incorporate truffles in some form or another, and so did our hotel breakfast… yummmy. Some of them, like the renowned Konoba Mondo, even shut down for a few months every year when the truffle season ends, because they only serve fresh truffles😮 For those who are less particular than that, you can buy souvenirs of whole or crushed truffles and truffle oils and many other variations of this precious mushroom.
- Hum, the smallest town in the world! Yes, you read that right. It has a total population of 21 by the 2011 census. Yes, 21 persons, no more! A placard tells you “Since Hum contains administrative facilities, facilities for public affairs and has its own mayor, it is regarded as the world’s smallest town.” The drive from Motovun is barely 40 mins, and I would definitely recommend a visit. Hum has its own medieval history, with a bell tower from the 1500’s and a church from the 1800’s. Walking the cobbled streets, taking in the aromas from pretty cafes, glancing at dainty little cottages, a feeling of timelessness and bliss washed over Mr.A and me.
Coming soon, Croatia Day 7: Zagreb…
… Continued from Croatia Day 4: Plitvice Lakes
Refreshed after our hike through the Plitvice National Park, we travelled north-west towards the beautiful Peninsula of Istria, or Istra.
- The road-trip. It was such an enjoyable drive! As we drove out of the Park area, we hit some smaller scenic routes for a while before we came upon the highway. The highways were in excellent shape and traffic was low, so we covered around 250 km in about 3 hours, stopping for coffee and cake on the way. There were several tolls to be paid, but hey, the infrastructure deserved it alright. The views were again splendid, greenery everywhere and mountains on the horizon, it was so soothing to the eyes. The sun and clouds played around, making a pleasant game out of light and shadow.
- Pula is the largest city on the Istria Peninsula, located practically at its tip, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The town has much to offer, from a bustling harbour, to an old town, to local wineries. But the reason why we were in Pula, was the arena, constructed between 27 BC and 68 AD. Mr.A and I love all things Rome! So when we found out that Pula has a well-preserved Roman arena to offer, we just had to add it to our itirenary This is an awe-inspiring structure, the only remaining Roman amphitheater where all four side towers and all three Roman architectural orders have survived through the aeons. We sat there imagining how it must have been in back in the day… one of the many moments I have said to myself, oh how I wish I could go back in history and see for myself…
- Rovinj is yet another pretty coastal town on the Adriatic, about a 40-min drive along the highway to the north of Pula. It is a fishing port as is obvious by many a boat docked at the harbour. We had the perfect lunch of xxx and lazily strolled around the town. The cobbled streets jumble into one another, offering views of rows of colourful houses, tastefully planted window boxes, glimpses of the blue sea in between, and oozing a relaxed charm all the way. This could be the ideal place to unwind oneself, which is why it serves as a popular tourist town and a stop for long-distance bike teams. We ended our tour with yummy ice-creams which appeared to be another popular ‘activity’ here😉
Coming up soon Croatia Day 6: Motovun, Hum…
… Continued from Croatia Day 3 : Trogir, Klis, Salona, Zadar
Today was all about walking through the Plitvice National Park, locally known as the Plitvice Jezera. Incidentally, Jezera or Jazeera is the Urdu word for Lake, quite widely used in India…
- The guesthouse & our hosts. Mr.A and I arrived at Sven Guesthouse the previous evening and received a warm welcome from our hosts. This place is a stone’s throw away from Entrance1 of Plitvice National Park. Just across the road you can see one of the waterfalls. The farm on the guesthouse is extremely charming, with some hilariously curious sheep who kept bleating at us! Sven gave us all the information we might need to plan our next day of hiking at the Lakes. Also gave us practical tips about restaurants, stores, etc. and even lent us umbrellas the next day since it was raining. The room was cute and cosy, too.
- Plitvice Lakes National Park. We spent the entire day hiking along the trails of yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The official website suggests several alternatives depending on how long you want your route to be. We chose one that took us around the Lower and Upper Lakes area, and included a ferry ride across Lake Kozjak. I cannot start talking about how awesome this experience was. One of those things you don’t do justice by trying to describe. I would highly recommend visiting Plitvice on a visit to Croatia. The land is rich in limestone, as most of Croatia. The waterfalls dissolve the soft limestone, carry it forward an deposit it elsewhere, thereby creating a somewhat dynamic landscape. You can almost reach out and touch the gushing sprays. The Great Waterfall, the largest of them all, is a sight to behold. The lakes themselves hold translucent green waters, offering a magical view. It is simply one of the most naturally beautiful places I have been.
- The park facilities were indeed impressive. The park has a great network of trails and boardwalks to take one right upto and below some of the waterfalls. The paths are clearly marked out and a shuttle bus will take you between the different gates, if you wish to walk less. The entrance ticket includes one ferry ride across Lake Kozjak, the largest of the sixteen lakes. Restaurants offer good food and drinks at a reasonable price, accompanied by splendid views, too!
The weather again! It was damp and cold and wouldn’t stop pouring all day long. There were loads of umbrellas and raincoats in the scene. Some of the paths were flooded and completely closed down. On some others you had to walk on planks, no kidding. And then there were those where the planks were just about submerged. However, there were enough trails that were open to us, to not ruin the hike. And we were thankful eventually that the cool helped us walk longer than would be comfortable on a hot day. Everything will be okay at the end of the day, right Mr.A?!
Coming soon Croatia Day 5: Pula, Rovinj…
… Continued from Croatia Day 2: Split
The morning after visiting Split, Mr.A and I started off from the hotel and hopped onto a transfer bus to get to the airport to pick up the rental car which would be our transport for the rest of the journey. Today was all about visiting some smaller towns on our way north towards the Plitvice National Parks.
- Trogir. The Split airport is closer to this little town than Split itself. We had earlier booked the car online, and were quickly through with the paper formalities. Soon we were off to our first destination for the day, the historic center of Trogir. Founded in 200 B.C., this is yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site in Croatia and our third on this trip alone! The town is pretty as a picture with beautiful buildings of Renaissance and Baroque styles, endearing cobbled streets between, inviting cafes and the fresh blue sea so close at hand. And we chanced upon the Trogirski Rafioli, a traditional local sweet. Perfect start to the day, how could we ever top this?! But Croatia, you surprise us at every step of the way❤
- Klis Fortress, or let’s call it Meereen. From Trogir, we drove off to another spot on our Game of Thrones journey. The Klis Fortress, situated high up in the hills, doubles up as the kingdom of Meereen. This medieval fortress has been built and rebuilt for more than two thousand years, having passed through the rule of many kings and clans. I must say, for some reason I just love the sound of Meereen…so musical, right? Though much of the fortress is under duress, and we could immediately see that the pyramid and various other structures from the series are heavily digitised, Mr.A and I were nevertheless filled with childlike thrill at having ‘conquered’ Meereen😉 The uninterrupted view from the top is reason enough to hike up there.
- Salona, about five km from Klis, is another ancient city near present day Solin. During the 1st century B.C. Salona served as the capital of the Roman province of Dalmatia.There is a fee of 40 Kuna to visit the site. There is a small museum where you buy the tickets. There is a charming little garden with ancient pillars and aqueducts. The view of the hills in the distance is quite grand. Mr.A and I both love history and ruins, and we enjoyed the site, especially the amphitheater. Although it is not in a good state, one can make out the arena where gladiator fights must have taken place. The amphitheater is a short walk away from the rest of the ruins, and unfortunately, it is now surrounded by modern houses almost sharing the walls.
- Zadar was the last city we dropped by on our way. We went straight to the old town to see the Church of St. Donatus and the remains of the Roman Forum. Mr.A and I enjoyed our pizza lunch by the shade of trees people-watching other tourists and We passed some other grand churches on the walk around town and eventually found ourselves at the sea front. We came up right by the sea organ which lets sea waves interact with pipes and tubes under a set of marble steps, to create this music that is strangely random and melodious at the same time. We lazed for a while on the steps, soaking in the sun, sea and music splashing all around us. And then we headed off to the next leg of the journey. More about that in another post soon, promise!
Coming up soon! Croatia Day 4: Plitvice Lakes…
… Continued from Croatia Day 1: Dubrovnik
Day 2 in Croatia was all about a bus ride from Dubrovnik to Split, and exploring Split’s charming Old Town.
- The bus ride started at 8a.m. from Dubrovnik’s main bus station or the Autobusni Kolodvor. The ride was quite comfortable with beautiful seaside views. The road would rise to a height and then slowly slope down to sea level revealing sometime cliffs and sometime beaches with pretty villages nestled in between. The bus itself was clean and seats were snug. It wasn’t very crowded so we could choose to sit where we liked. The journey took some 4 hours and I was able to catch some shut-eye on the way.
- Our hotel was at a super convenient location. Right next to the bus stand / railway station, and just a few minutes’ walk from the city centre and the Split Old Town. The room was decently equipped and the balcony had a great view. All for one night’s stay, I’d say it was a steal.
- Diocletian’s palace, built by the Romans far back in the 4th century AD is the Old Town of Split! This is a town masquerading as a palace or perhaps the other way round, but all in all, it’s just not possible to separate one from the other. There are homes sharing palace walls, restaurants in royal courtyards, and stores in the arched pathways leading to ancient temples. It’s a wonderland, I tell you! Quite natural then that the Palace complex is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The palace basements were just another bonus on our Game of Thrones journey. These are supposed to have been completely filled with debris and waste over time and have been recently undergoing massive restoration and reconstruction. The basements are the site that serve as the Meereenese catacombs where Daenerys locks up her dragons after they kill a child and threaten to become dangerous. Mr.A and I were so excited, we were nearly jumping in our seats while watching the recent Season 6 episode when Tyrion unlocks the dragon’s shackles😀
- The marina was another absolutely gorgeous place. After our afternoon full of walking the cobbled streets of the Palace, we rested for a while with our feet dangling inches above the water. We watched a seaplane take off, which was a first. We sat at a pretty cafe for coffee and some delicious cake, one of them called Miss Berry, how cute! We also walked into an information centre and met the sweetest people at the counter who talked about their delightful city with such love, and also advised us on our trip ahead. The beautiful palm trees, the spring flowers, the city wall on the one side and the blue water on the other side, made it the perfect stroll to end our day in Split.
- Sigh! We could surely have spent more time in this beautiful city! But we had so much more exploring to do, we decided to look forward to the next day’s itinerary :)
Followed by Croatia Day 3: Trogir, Klis, Salona, Zadar…